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Panic Attacks and Spine problems
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Panic Attacks and Spine problems

Over a year ago I fell from a tall ladder on my head and ended up with 6 compressed vertebra.. 4 of which had kyphoplasty surgery.(one could not be completly raised so my back is slightly curved). meaning it is still slightly pie shaped.

I've had a CT of my brain and it looks healthy (alrhough no chemicals were used to view the actual function of the brain) I have no swelling, cancer or other abnormalities.

My question is... can damage to the vertebra cause panic attacks to occur at a later date.. meaning could a problem with a specific area of the vertebra (which bothers me on a daily basis) be effecting my nevous system in such a way as to trigger fight or flight symptoms?

I've been put on a medication called clonazepam and it's helping to control the panic... but I'm wondering if somehow the injury is triggering the problem possibly by cutting off and then suddenly releasing chemicals to my brain so it signals the brain to act like there is an emergency or something?

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1099849_tn?1293496303
Right before the first panic attack.. for about 3 days had a wierd symptom in my brain.. actually as kind of fog that hovered within the top part of my skull area..(top of the head).. it didn't cause any cognitive problems but it felt odd and I wondered what could be causing it...then out of the blue while doing no more than sitting at my desk computer.. the panic attack came on and like most attacks it presented itself as if I were having a heart attack, called in the paramedics and they found nothing wrong with me at all.. not even raised blood pressure ..etc... later that night the symptoms returned but were less severe so I took myself to the emergency room at the hospital and they watched me for quite some time .. even through a slight panic experience and no outward symptoms appeared... give me a breathing treatment and a mild sedative and sent me home... the Sedative helped for about 1 1/2 days and I figured.. no biggy... but then the panic began again and it went on over and over for about 8 days until my PC Doc gave me clonazepam to help get the panic under control...

One wierd thing did happen during the time I was not yet on medication... I noticed a surge of electical activity over the top of my brain again... only the top towards the frontal lobe area on both sides... like excessive electricity... not dull as I first experienced but this time clearly execessive electrical current going on... so ... that's about it..

thought I'd describe those symptoms in case it helps narrow down the possible source of the problem... in case it's not psychologically based.

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Avatar_f_tn
I have exactly what you have.  Had compression fractures in three vertebrae in my thoracic spine in a car accident many, many years ago.  Anxiety built up in me over the years, and one day I had a panic attack.  All that pent-up fear just busted thru.  Then waves of them came becuz of various triggers.  After a few years of therapy and the same meds as you, I got to where I could control it.  BUT, it was my neurologist who explained to me the connection between when my back hurts, my panic increases and I lose focus in my thinking, too.  So, I can tell you pretty much 100 percent that the panic you  got is directly related to your injury from last year.  

But it works this way:  When you feel discomfort in your injury, it makes you feel frustrated, even trapped, and this can trigger an attack.  And the quickest way to reduce the panic is:  Practice deep breathing, take a really deep breath and blow it out, breathe normally a few times, then do another deep breath, do this ten times, and it'll slow your heartrate, which in turn slows the panic.  Also, do a reality check by asking yourself, "Is this the worst situation I could be in right now?  (sitting at your desk)," and you'll realize it's your pain, not the situation, that is making you freak out.

The best thing you can do for your psychological makeup concerning your injury is to make the connection RIGHT NOW AND FOREVER between that injury and your current anxiety problems.  I remember one time I was walking down the hallway, and I put my hands where my back was hurting, and the leg muscles as they walked were pulling right in that spot, and I actually felt my emotions filling up and getting angry.  It's absolutely true, how that works.  Probably every time you move your head around or bend your head or hunch over the computer,it pulls on that injury, and if you'll do what I did, and put your hand on your spine there whilst you're doing something typical with your head or arms, you'll notice those things I noticed.

Now, as for that electrical feeling you get, all that is, is the muscles that run from your neck up into your head, that are controlled by the the nerves in your neck, are spasming becuz your neck is so sensitive.  The nerves release their energy and you get this chill shake sensation.  I get it, too, when someone rubs out a knot in a muscle near my old back injury, a release of "chi" is what they call it in Asian medicine.  I went to a massage therapist one time and she somehow released a big block to my energy, and I could feel that chi running from my head to my toes, that one was like an electrical hum, I kid you not.

Anyhow, that's the story.  You can always ask for an MRI with contrast (I would hate that, but to each his own), and then you'd have the max test on your brains.  But I think your brains are okay, at least good enough to sit at a computer and type out a perfectly understandable message, and characterize your injury and symptoms!  Oh, you might have had a little concussion, but I guess everybody who's been in a football game or gotten in a fender-bender has felt that.

I'll be happy to post back to you anytime you want, I have a whole bunch of war stories to tell that might help, and I check this forum regularly.  But I hope at least this little explanation of what's going on will reassure you, and hopefully helps you with the panic deal, too. GG  
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1099849_tn?1293496303
thanks ggreg for all that information... It's very helpful... and I'll put what you suggessed to the test and see how I feel.... right now I'm on a sedative type medication but I'd like to come off of it and if that means work through panic attacks as long as they aren't seizure related... so be it... I can then learn to control the triggers... It's particular area of my back that bothers me on a regular basis where the one vertebra was unable to be fully repaired... argh... One good thing about this whole experience is that I am learning to take better care of myself overall... and support from you in the meantime is very encouraging! Thanks a million!
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi Cone,
I hope the deep breathing will help you out.  As for your meds, even with all the therapy I got, I STILL have to take my clonazepam.  I've been on it for about ten years now.  I started with .5 daily, and in a few years doubled it, and then a couple years ago I tripled it.  So, I went up slowly, no big deal.  But now, some people CAN do it without drugs, like the actress Kim Bassinger, she did it without drugs.  But get this, you know the blues muscian John Mayer, he has panic disorder, and a few years ago he said he keeps Xanax in his pocket, "just in case," and it gets him thru the rough patches.  So, I'm just saying, it's okay to take that particular drug for a while, but if you're brave enough and if you have HELP from a psychologist, you wil be more successful.  And be careful going off your sedative, do it slowly.  Sorry, don't mean to tell you what to do, just passing along what I know.

As far as living with pain, let me tell you, it took me two years before I finally didn't notice my back so much.  And I wasn't on any medicine except the two months I was in the hospital and four more months after whilst in physical therapy and resting up.  My spine curves like yours, and so it's kinda unstable, and once every month or so for a long time, it would get to killing me, and somebody would have to rub it out.  I just wish I had known then what I'm telling you now, that any frustration and anger you notice is building up, it's that busted neck of yours, so maybe get you some massage therapy going every now and then, to keep those feelings at bay and your muscles relaxed.
GG
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1099849_tn?1293496303
I was thinking... I'm going to try a buddist form of meditation where I retrain my mind to think diferently .. not so much religiously...but using mantras I create for myself to retrain my Locus coeruleus not to trigger for the wrong reason...

I'm finding that when the panic rises up there is usually a psychologocal thinking process that is going on... like the fear of death or suffering, or guilt or just a lot of things that my mind automatically brings up.... and use that panic warning as a basis for my rethinking... if the thoughs I am having are causing me to feel 'afraid' then that's a good place to start meditating on opposing that thinking by retraining my mind...such as telling myself "that death is a part of the reality of life and I can't really live life, fearing death. that it is inevitable, eveyone has to face it sooner or later and instead embrace it"...

Not while I'm having a panic attack.. but during the times I'm practicing retraining my thinking... and stopping the thoughts earlier in the process if possible~ . things like that...

Is that what you did when you went through cognitive thearpy? The Psychologist had you relearn how to think? or at least recognize what was triggering the fear so you were better able to reduce or eliminate the panic?

I'm looking for a psychologist to have someone to talk to about things that have been coming up that I find myself at a loss to deal with.... like decisions I've made that can't be changed or fixed and learning to accept them for what they are.... also coaching so that I have to sleep at a specific time etc.. and be accountible to someone who is going to ask if I'm doing what I decided was  best for me in thearpy... and so on..

So I put the word out among friends in my local area for a good psychologist and lets see how I do.... I'm taking ibuprophen with my medication now just to be sure I put off any agitation so like you said the pain doesn't bother me as much that way... and eases any triggers that may physically be leading to the raise in anxiety and the feeling of panic....

and of course staying on the medication for now because even at the low dose I'm on.. the panic creeps up on me... but doesn't overtake me... so it helps me not to have a full blown panic attack and instead seems to be helping me spot problems I'm having emotionally like a warning signal that something I'm doing or thinking or subconsiously feeling is bothering me.

I'm very interested in what cognitive therapy is like?
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1099849_tn?1293496303
I was thinking... I'm going to try a buddist form of meditation where I retrain my mind to think diferently .. not so much religiously...but using mantras I create for myself to retrain my Locus coeruleus not to trigger for the wrong reason...

I'm finding that when the panic rises up there is usually a psychologocal thinking process that is going on... like the fear of death or suffering, or guilt or just a lot of things that my mind automatically brings up.... and use that panic warning as a basis for my rethinking... if the thoughs I am having are causing me to feel 'afraid' then that's a good place to start meditating on opposing that thinking by retraining my mind...such as telling myself "that death is a part of the reality of life and I can't really live life, fearing death. that it is inevitable, eveyone has to face it sooner or later and instead embrace it"...

Not while I'm having a panic attack.. but during the times I'm practicing retraining my thinking... and stopping the thoughts earlier in the process if possible~ . things like that...

Is that what you did when you went through cognitive thearpy? The Psychologist had you relearn how to think? or at least recognize what was triggering the fear so you were better able to reduce or eliminate the panic?

I'm looking for a psychologist to have someone to talk to about things that have been coming up that I find myself at a loss to deal with.... like decisions I've made that can't be changed or fixed and learning to accept them for what they are.... also coaching so that I have to sleep at a specific time etc.. and be accountible to someone who is going to ask if I'm doing what I decided was  best for me in thearpy... and so on..

So I put the word out among friends in my local area for a good psychologist and lets see how I do.... I'm taking ibuprophen with my medication now just to be sure I put off any agitation so like you said the pain doesn't bother me as much that way... and eases any triggers that may physically be leading to the raise in anxiety and the feeling of panic....

and of course staying on the medication for now because even at the low dose I'm on.. the panic creeps up on me... but doesn't overtake me... so it helps me not to have a full blown panic attack and instead seems to be helping me spot problems I'm having emotionally like a warning signal that something I'm doing or thinking or subconsiously feeling is bothering me.

I'm very interested in what cognitive therapy is like?
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Avatar_f_tn
Hey Cone,
You asked me what my therapy was like.  Well, I go to a group of psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, it's a big bunch of docs in a two-story building.  They are "behaviorists," which if you'll look that up somewhere, you'll see what it means.  But basically the idea is, they change your behavior, not so much your thinking.  I agree with that type of therapy.  My psychologist was a behaviorist, specializing in panic disorder, and we didn't do the Buddhist thing of "getting to the bottom" of it all.  Rather, I had to "stand in my fear," which is to say I went thru "exposure therapy" and had to put myself in situations that scared me or led to a panic attack.  But you gotta understand, I had anxiety and then panic disorder for many, many years, I had a whole slew of triggers, took a year to get me untangled.

For example, in my car accident that busted up my back, it went off the road and into a ravine.  Therefore, I had a fear of heights.  So, I became afraid of tall buildings, bridges, that sort of thing.  My first panic attack came as I approached a particularly scary bridge.  Anyhow, I had to go up this 17-story building, the only tall one we got here in town, and I swear, I could not get on the elevator.  Eventually I did, of course, and was able to stand at the top floor window, looking straight down to the ground, I "stood in my fear" until I felt completely normal about it.  These were the types of behavior modification that I went thru.  The deep breathing was one of about ten things taught to me so I could go thru these scary things without losing it.

Keep in mind, I had not yet made the connection between my back pain and my panic.  It seems obvious now, but was not at the time.  It was years after all my behavior therapy that I was worried about how come I couldn't concentrate as well as I used to, and my neurologist showed me how pain keeps a person from concentrating...they can ONLY think about their pain, even tho it might be subtle pain in the realm of pain levels, so that's how come I cannot concentrate.  That's when a lightbulb went off in my head and I made the last connection of my anxiety and my physical pain, which is why I told you about it, to save you a few steps of misery.

So, hope you find a good behaviorist psychologist who knows about panic disorder and how to get you around it.  Also, stick with the meds whilst doing the therapy, altho the doc may suggest you do it without them, I don't know.  My accident was traumatic and profound as far as long-term effects.  And as for the meditation you described and all that, hey, whatever works for you, give it a shot.  Anyhow, you asked about the therapy I had, so there you go.
GG
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1099849_tn?1293496303
Thank you so much for that insight into behavioral therapists.. before reading your response I already decided I'd at least go to where a group of these kind of therapists have an office that is within my insurance network and see how it feels to just be there.. I'm going tomorrow...just to see what the place looks like and to build up the courage to call and make an appointment. To know a little about how they work helps alot!  Because one my triggers is a fear of psycholgists ... as a child that was one of the tools my mother used to threaten me with, that if I did not do what she told me to do she would see to it that I was instutionalized for being insane..and reinforced in me the idea that I was crazy... so I have not been able.. until now to reach out and seek help... but panic disorder is horrifying and it obvious that I am no longer able to suppress my fears without medication... Time to face the music and be brave.
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi Cone,
Yup, sometimes you gotta bite the bullet and get help.  You can keep your visits to the psychologists on the down low, becuz just like you, lots of people misunderstand that mental rewiring is no different than getting your leg put in a cast.  Most psychology type places are warm and inviting, carpeting, chairs, lamps, and the doc's room looks like the ones you see on TV.  I remember first time I had to tell the psychologist what was wrong with me, I was terrified because for some reason I did not want to talk about the situation, it really pained me to reveal my fear, took me a while to get used to it.  But I'm some kinda glad it's over, these things are hard to deal with, especially to sensitive people.  But the relief was real, and it was as though not too much had been going on before that, the attacks got farther and farther away.  I think you'll recover quickly and completely, mainly because your accident was just a little over a year ago.  Well, thanks for checking back, glad you're going to be brave and get the help you need to feel like yourself again!  
GG
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1099849_tn?1293496303
I'm rereading the amazing an thoughtful words you posted to me, when I first started dealing with panic..... an want to thank you profoundly! Thank you so much for being there for me when I was flailing in the wind.. not understanding... Not that I have ultimate understanding now.. but what I am trying to say is... THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR COMPASSION. You have helped me sooooooo much!
Kathy
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1379852_tn?1279077083
I have a rare spinal cord condition where my a syrinx (a special type of cyst) is in my central spinal canal and causes all sorts of pain and issues. For several years it was undiagnosed (I believe the syrinx developed after a car accident 14 years ago and it wasn't discovered until 2.5 years ago), I ended up having a lot of issues with anxiety and depression. I have been on and off of different medications throughout the years and depending on what is going on in my life it works for me. When I'm at a pretty level, low stress point in my life my pain is managable, the chronic fatigue is managed, and I don't have the issues with panic or depression. Once the stress starts to rise for whatever reason it all builds on each other, staying as calm and stressfree as possible is key.
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Avatar_f_tn
To both Kathy and Fighter,
Yes, it's amazing how the mind works to protect us, and so when fearsome things confront us, we react.  But when the scary stuff is just fear that comes from ongoing pain, it can be a constant hassle.  And I agree, relaxation is one of the keys to avoiding the tension that is sure to come with fear, pain, etc.  Thus professional massages, breathing deeply, or as Kathy's meditation does, all work on the automatic muscle tension that comes with fear.

By the way, Kathy, did you have to climb up some ladders to "stand in your fear"?  I can still remember, on my fear of heights, going up a ladder in my driveway with husband standing there for me, as part of my exposure therapy.  I couldn't get up three steps without freezing and crying and all that stuff!  Now I'M the one who gets up on the roof and cleans out gutters!  Ha!  All the best to you both!
GG
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